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Economics Legislation Committee
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

CHAIR: The committee will now resume and I welcome officers of the CSIRO. Dr Marshall, welcome back. Have you got an opening statement for us?

Dr Marshall : Just a very brief one, if that's okay, Chair.

CHAIR: They're my favourite kind.

Dr Marshall : As we're approaching the end of summer, we at CSIRO have been moved by the impact of drought, flood and bushfires, because CSIRO's purpose, of course, is to solve Australia's greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. To battle drought, for example, we've pioneered tillage, crop rotation, soil improvement and sowing techniques to reduce soil and water losses and establish crops in very dry conditions. Drought-resistant strains of crops and advanced management systems created by CSIRO are drought-proofing grazing properties. We've leveraged CSIRO's unique access to space so that, for the first time, all Australians can see water flows and drought impacts firsthand through the National Drought Map, transparently and openly, as with all our science. A unique rural intelligence platform created for a start-up, Digital Agriculture Services, is the first software to comprehensively assess and monitor rural land anywhere in this country. It draws together rich data sets that we've collected over the decades on soils, yields, weather, water access, and leverages machine learning and AI to enable the farmer to better plan for their own future.

But the heart of these scientific wonders are the people at CSIRO, often drawing on discovery science from 39 great Australian universities but solely focused on turning amazing science into real-world solutions for Australia's greatest challenges. Our mission goes to the heart of what's most important to all Australians: a more sustainable and safer environment; new industries and new jobs for our children; and the health and wealth of the lucky country.

As the mission-directed national science agency, CSIRO is targeting the big six national challenges, to turn them from challenge into opportunity. Developing a resilient and valuable environment is one of them. The other five are food security and quality; health and wellbeing; sustainable energy and resources; future industries; and a secure Australia and region—literally, the air we breathe, the land we grow, the water we drink, the food we eat and the life we all live. When we all focus on the big things that really matter, Australian science and technology can solve seemingly impossible problems and create new value for all Australians. That's why CSIRO is here.

CHAIR: Thank you, Dr Marshall. I feel like 'Advance Australia Fair' should have been playing in the background. I always love hearing your opening statements.

Senator PATRICK: Chair, I might point out the use of the phrase 'lucky country'. You might be aware of the full quote:

Australia is a lucky country run … by second rate people who share its luck.

That's the original.

Senator Canavan: I'd just like to put on the record that that's not the government's view.

Dr Marshall : I feel very lucky to be here, Senator.

CHAIR: Please don't ask Senator Patrick to prove it. He has so many documents in front of him, I'm sure he's got that poem written down somewhere.

Senator PATRICK: Not all for CSIRO, I might add.

CHAIR: Senator Sinodinos, we might start with you.

Senator SINODINOS: It's good to see you again, Dr Marshall. How are you going with the CSIRO Innovation Fund?

Dr Marshall : Very well. In fact, we've met or exceeded all of the NISA goals. The Innovation Fund leveraged about $70 million of government money to raise a total of over $230 million total fund size. So we leveraged significantly more than one to one of the government money. We also, for the first time, brought in Temasek, the sovereign wealth fund from Singapore, and a major US fund as well, and probably most importantly, a very large Australian super fund, Hostplus, which, for the first time, is supporting deep science and deep technology investment, which is a big change for the system.

Senator SINODINOS: In terms of those sorts of investments, what sorts of returns are you ultimately looking to get? Have you set yourself, implicitly or explicitly, some sort of target?

Dr Marshall : That was interesting. One of the challenges in raising a fund like this is that our motivation is primarily to drive economic growth in this country, which is not the same as maximising the return from the fund, and we had up-front that conversation with all of the institutional investors who came in. And it was great to see that change, because, I can tell you, Senator, 10 years ago there's no way those big funds would have taken that level of national interest first. I think it's a sign in general that big corporates are starting to pay a lot more attention to the corporate social responsibility index. And we're seeing an increase—it's small and slow, but it's definitely an increase—in the interest of large corporates to support science for the national benefit.

Senator SINODINOS: Can you tell us a bit about ON?

Dr Marshall : ON has been a bit of a transformational program for us. It teaches scientists from any publicly funded research institution—so, all 39 universities and government agencies—how to turn their science into a solution. It helps them figure out how to make it solve a real-world problem. Some of the things that I mentioned that we're doing around drought, in particular, came from teams—from pure, public good science—going through ON and simply learning more about the process of translation from idea to impact.

Senator SINODINOS: With this model that you're evolving, do you see that as potentially having lessons for how the higher education sector and the research sector interact with industry, promoting this great goal of collaboration that we're trying to entrench in Australian industry?

Dr Marshall : I do, Senator. In fact, every year, I meet in Kyoto with the heads of all our sister agencies around the world. Two years ago, after a couple of years of debate, we agreed that one of the most important roles for national science agencies is effectively to be a bridge that connects the universities in their countries to the industries in their countries. It's something that national science agencies are uniquely positioned to do.

Senator SINODINOS: Good. How are you going with the CSIRO 2020 plan? Are you meeting your milestones?

Dr Marshall : Very much so, Senator. In fact, we've possibly got a little ahead of ourselves. The core of 2020 was figuring out how to increase our investment in blue-sky science—horizon 3 science. That meant we had to become more efficient at creating sources of revenue—predominantly intellectual property, royalties, equity in spin-outs and industry revenue. That's enabled us to do a very significant increase in our investment in blue sky. It's, I believe, close to $50 million a year now, which is seven or eight times more than it was when we started. So that core element of the strategy has really delivered strongly.

Senator SINODINOS: In relation to one specific case which is to do with land and water, how engaged is the CSIRO in the problems in the Menindee Lakes where we saw the recent fish kill?

Dr Marshall : CSIRO has been deeply involved in water for many, many decades. In fact, our environmental science, of which land and water is at the heart, is in the top 0.1 per cent of all the world's water science. So we're generally regarded as one of the best, if not the best, in the world in that area. And you'd expect that, given that we're the driest continent on the planet. It's a very great strength of Australian science—particularly, CSIRO science.

Senator SINODINOS: What contribution do you anticipate making in North Queensland after the floods?

Dr Marshall : After the floods?

Senator SINODINOS: After the floods, yes.

Dr Marshall : We've just completed the northern Australia regional water assessments to determine where the water is and where the water flows, or at least to start to determine that. For the flooding, probably—

Senator Canavan: It's probably a question better put to Geoscience Australia, who I don't think have been called to this session. They are responsible for maintaining satellite imagery of the continent. They have records going back, I think, over 40 years, which are probably the highest quality record keeping of satellite images in the world. I've already seen some early analysis of the flooding events in North Queensland, and there would be more work looking at how that would compare to previous events, like 1974, that they can draw on, given the high-quality data set they have. Sorry about that. I think you have been involved at different times, CSIRO, in the development of that, but Geoscience Australia manage it at the moment.

Senator SINODINOS: That's good. Jumping quickly to Data61, I've been exposed to some of their work over the years. They seem to go from strength to strength. What role are they playing in areas like artificial intelligence, for example?

Dr Marshall : Data61 is the digital part of CSIRO. But, over the last few years, many of the other areas of CSIRO, like agriculture, have become increasingly digital, so that digital capability is diffused throughout the organisation. A lot of the creations inside Data61 find their way into the different industries through the other CSIRO business units. In fact, that tends to be the largest source of growth for Data61. We use artificial intelligence, for example, in our climate modelling now. We call it machine learning. It's an early form of AI, but it is AI. We're using it to improve our seasonal and decadal climate prediction, we're using it in our drought modelling and we're using it in our health group, where we're trying to use AI to analyse and do early detection of cancers. So we're finding it in many, many places. But, for CSIRO, AI is all about energy, water, health and, of course, jobs. Probably one of the things you're aware of is that Data61, together with our Futures team, mapped out essentially the future of work and the impact of digital technologies like AI on employment to try and understand what science Australia would need and what education components our students would need to be able to benefit from the shift to AI.

Senator SINODINOS: Is that work being fed into broader whole-of-government consideration of these issues?

Dr Marshall : I believe so, Senator, yes.

Senator SINODINOS: In that context, I might just ask the secretary about this whole area of the future of work. I know there was work going on between your portfolio and Senator Cash when she was IR and then when she moved to jobs and innovation. What's the progress of those efforts?

Dr Smith : That's correct, Senator. Just stepping back from the budget measures around AI, where there was $25 million dedicated to CRC for AI—the round closed on that in September—there was money allocated for Data61 to produce an ethics framework for how we should think about that, as well as a road map on where the prospective industries and sectors are that Australia should focus on, and that is being worked on and is getting close to finalisation. Also an AI standards road map is being developed by Standards Australia. At this point in time, the department chairs an interdepartmental committee on artificial intelligence, where we're at the stage of really understanding, first, internally, what departments are doing themselves in terms of applying machine learning and AI to service delivery. But I think the broader piece of work is really understanding where Australia's comparative advantages should be and where we should put our effort and also working through and consulting with the community about what we should think about the ethical principles going forward. That's coming together over, let's say, probably the next couple of weeks or months, and eventually, obviously, we would go to government with a strategy for how we should be approaching those. But it's a long-term consultation process as well.

Senator SINODINOS: And, in that context, are you also looking at the implications for the Public Service?

Dr Smith : Indeed. We apply it within our own organisation. DHS, the Department of Human Services, is using it as well. Clearly, Home Affairs is using a lot of machine learning. So there are a lot of applications, but we need to understand what we're all doing and map that. In relation to the future of work, it's really understanding how AI impacts on the future of work. There are various studies, both those that are quite dramatic and those that are more assuring, in terms of what that means for the changing nature of work. We are still trying to do mapping work between the two departments—the Department of Jobs and Small Business and my department—in understanding the sectoral implications. But, really, it's trying to get that balance between where the opportunities are and where the jobs are that are going to be impacted. There's also work going on in the Public Service to think about what jobs within the public sector will be impacted. There will be opportunities, but there will also be different types of jobs.

That's a longhand way of saying that there's quite a bit of work in train. It hasn't all come together yet, but we're not unique, as a country, in trying to understand the various dimensions of it and really think about what the positives are, what we need to plan for in terms of the transformation of jobs going forward and how we engage the population, in a digital sense, on where the jobs of the future are.

Senator SINODINOS: I have just a final couple of questions. Ribit is in your organisation, I gather. It's in Data61; is that right?

Dr Marshall : Yes.

Senator SINODINOS: Is that a pilot, or is it a full service now?

Dr Marshall : It's a fairly advanced pilot. As you know, it connects students to opportunities. Our services group, in which our education work is done, is also part of that, so it's shared between Data61 and CSIRO services.

Senator SINODINOS: Is it at a stage where you can invest further in it and expand it?

Dr Marshall : We actually think there's an opportunity to spin it out and make it independent through collaboration with a number of the universities, so we're exploring that at this point.

Senator SINODINOS: Alright. While I think of it, I have just one final thing with Data61. They were doing some work with the Institute of Company Directors, I think, around sensitising boards to the implications of cybersecurity, or the lack thereof. We've had a recent case here at Parliament House and, of course, with the major political parties. Are you across that work? How is that going?

Dr Marshall : I've actually done that course. Like all of the AICD courses, it's extremely good on governance, and it does a great job, I think, of helping directors understand what questions to ask, because a lot of us don't think to ask: where's our data? Often data centres are not in this country, but it may not be obvious until you ask the question and really dig to find out where your data is actually being stored.

Senator SINODINOS: It's something that has gone over people's heads, in a way.

Dr Marshall : I think that's right. Also, our IM&T group, which handles all of CSIRO's IT systems and security, had a very large input into that.

Senator SINODINOS: Good.

Senator KIM CARR: I might just begin. Dr Marshall, I'm going to assume that you would agree that science integrity is at the heart of everything CSIRO does.

Dr Marshall : I would.

Senator KIM CARR: I didn't think you'd disagree with that proposition. You responded to the South Australian royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin and its final report, which was released at the end of January.


Dr Marshall : I must admit that I took a couple of breaths and went for a little walk around the building before I sat down at my computer to compose a response. I was pleased that in the report the commission applauded CSIRO's deep legacy and the amazing contributions, and also the fact that our predictions on flow reduction were almost exactly spot on, which is amazing considering that the work started almost 10 years ago.

Senator KIM CARR: You did respond. You made a media statement on 15 February. You sent a letter to the South Australian Premier—is that correct?

Dr Marshall : I believe the letter came from Dr Mayfield, but CSIRO did send a response, yes. I believe we did a media response as well.

Senator KIM CARR: You did a media comment. Is it possible to get a copy of that correspondence?

Dr Marshall : I'm sure we can find it. To completely answer your question, I was disappointed in some of the other statements that were made in the report, because they didn't appear to be supported by any of the evidence in the report.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm interested to know what the process was by which CSIRO chose to engage with the commission? It is a royal commission. What was the process by which you made the decision?

D r Mayfield : Maybe I could answer that. In terms of how we responded to the commission—

Senator KIM CARR: Not responded. I'm interested in the process by which you engaged with the commission first of all?

D r Mayfield : In terms of the sequence of events there, in early June we received a request for current and former CSIRO employees or staff to appear. Shortly after that, the Commonwealth instituted a High Court action, an injunction, to prevent past and current Commonwealth employees from appearing. We advised the commissioner on 29 June that we would be respecting the High Court process and let it run its course, and then we would advise after that how CSIRO would respond to the commission. That High Court action was discontinued towards the end of August, and there was advice from the Australian government solicitor that there would be voluntary submissions made. CSIRO also advised the royal commissioner on 12 October that we would be making a voluntary submission on the relevant scientific matters. We submitted that on 5 November.

Senator KIM CARR: The first part of your response was tied up with the government's directive to public servants, was it?

D r Mayfield : Initial considerations were the processes that were running and respecting those, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: As a Commonwealth agency, you felt you were prohibited from contributing while our High Court case was running?

D r Mayfield : We felt it was best to respect the process at the time.

Senator PATRICK: Can you confirm that they sought to block former employees from attending?

D r Mayfield : My understanding was that it was about past and current Commonwealth employees.

Senator PATRICK: How do you stop a past employee from turning up to a royal commission?

Dr Marshall : That's probably beyond the scope of the officer's ability to answer.

Senator PATRICK: We will ask the minister in a minute, if I could.

Senator KIM CARR: I want to understand how CSIRO reached its position. I'm clear that you made a decision within CSIRO, without direction, not to contribute while that court proceeding was underway?

D r Mayfield : That was a decision I made in my capacity.

Senator KIM CARR: You made it on behalf of the organisation?

D r Mayfield : As the executive in charge of that particular area, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: On behalf of the whole organisation you made that decision?

D r Mayfield : Yes. We were coordinating a response.

Senator KIM CARR: You weren't asked to take any advice from the government about that matter?

D r Mayfield : No, it was a decision based on the balance of information.

Senator KIM CARR: Internally?

D r Mayfield : Yes.

Senator PATRICK: Respectfully, Doctor, if you've got someone who is making a decision about past and former—

Senator KIM CARR: I think we have got two questions here. What Dr Mayfield is referring to is the current organisation.

D r Mayfield : That's correct.

Senator KIM CARR: You have no authority or jurisdiction over anyone who was a former employee.

D r Mayfield : My decision relates very much to current CSIRO staff.

Senator KIM CARR: Only to officers of the CSIRO at the moment. That's the thrust of what you're telling me.

D r Mayfield : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: And you did that on your own undertaking, and you had the authorisation to do that?

D r Mayfield : That's right.

Senator KIM CARR: That's the submission you make.

D r Mayfield : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: And then the Commonwealth government discontinued the High Court action and issued a statement to say that voluntary submissions could be made by Commonwealth agencies?

D r Mayfield : That's correct.

Senator KIM CARR: And you undertook to make a voluntary submission—is that right?

D r Mayfield : That's right.

Senator KIM CARR: On 12 October.

D r Mayfield : We reviewed that situation and conveyed our decision to the royal commissioner.

Senator KIM CARR: Did you make a decision—were you asked to appear?

D r Mayfield : I believe there was some request to appear.

Senator KIM CARR: By the royal commissioner?

D r Mayfield : Back in June there was a request.

Senator KIM CARR: But after you made a decision to make a submission, that becomes operative, doesn't it, to appear?

D r Mayfield : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Did you then make a decision not to appear in the sense of officers actually front the commission directly?

D r Mayfield : We made the decision that we wished to make a voluntary submission.

Senator KIM CARR: You made a voluntary submission in writing, but did you also make a decision not to appear before the commissioner.

D r Mayfield : Yes, that's correct.

Senator KIM CARR: Why?

D r Mayfield : We felt that the submission was the best pathway to take. We would be able to state our position. The process was running to its conclusion at that stage.

Senator KIM CARR: Nonetheless, given your long history of engagement with inquiries, wouldn't it have been better for you to actually answer questions directly?

D r Mayfield : At that point in time, I think the commission was very close to its completion and may have completed.

Senator KIM CARR: So what?

D r Mayfield : We felt the written submission, which stated our facts, was the appropriate way.

Senator KIM CARR: The charge was that the CSIRO had acted in a secretive manner, effectively, wasn't it?

Dr Marshall : That was one comment in the report. Let's be clear, CSIRO has never operated under any sort of veil of secrecy. We publish more than 3,000 article as year.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm not asking you to comment on the validity of the claim. I'm just trying to understand the nature of the claim against you. I am trying to establish whether or not it would have been better to actually appear before the commissioner in the flesh?

Senator Canavan: I think the evidence that Mr Marshall has provided is relevant in that regard. There was a degree of concern that this process was not done in good faith. I certainly think some of the intemperate comments from the royal commissioner around the CSIRO indicate that, to be honest. The CSIRO is one of our pre-eminent scientific organisations. I've read through Mr Walker's report, and some of his conclusions about the CSIRO are lacking evidence and ill informed.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, the government took that view. Dr Marshall, was it CSIRO's view that the commissioner was not acting in good faith?

Dr Marshall : I can't comment on how the commissioner was acting. But based on comments like 'CSIRO was once a highly regarded institution', I just want to put on the record—

Senator KIM CARR: When was the statement made?

Dr Marshall : It's in the report.

Senator KIM CARR: But that was after the event.

Dr Marshall : Just to put on the record, CSIRO right now, today, backed by the data, today is in the top one per cent of the world's science in 14 fields. Our four core fields were in the top 0.1 per cent.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm not concurring with statements—

Dr Marshall : We are as trusted as the Red Cross—right now, today.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm puzzled why you wouldn't appear before a commissioner, given your strong track record in this area of research?

Dr Marshall : I think our strong track record stands for itself. The Murray-Darling science is the most comprehensive assessment of any river basin done anywhere in the world.

Senator PATRICK: That doesn't go to the senator's question, which is, if that is the case, why didn't you turn up to the commission? That is not an excuse for not turning up.

Dr Marshall : I'm not trying to make an excuse for not turning up.

Senator PATRICK: You didn't turn up What is the reason?

Dr Marshall : Our science is published. It is clear. It stands on its own merits.

CHAIR: I think Dr Mayfield has responded to the question.

Senator KIM CARR: You felt that you stood on your record.

Senator Canavan: I think this is a disgraceful attack on independence and quality of the CSIRO's work. This is clearly a political campaign from you both. You are seeking to use the integrity of the CSIRO in the pursuit of your political aims. I think that is contemptible. The CSIRO do fantastic work. I think the conclusions of the commissioner are out of line. Neither of you have put on the record whether you support or accept those. You are using this particular issue to further your political aim and, in doing so, tarnishing the reputation of one of our great institutions. I don't think that's right.

Senator PATRICK: I challenged the doctor for not answering a question.

Senator KIM CARR: I haven't said a damned thing about—

Senator Canavan: You were questioning the integrity of the CSIRO by not appearing at the commission. That's exactly what you were doing.

Senator KIM CARR: I am more than capable of criticising CSIRO. I'm asking about the decision not to appear before the commission. This is not about the quality of the science—

CHAIR: I feel that you have asked it and Dr Marshall has answered that question.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, why does the government seek to prevent former employees from appearing before the Commission?

Senator Canavan: I'm not aware of that particular issue. I would have to take that on notice. I'm happy for Dr Mayfield to add further to his comments. I'm not sure if that was a decision of Dr Mayfield or not, but I would have to take that on notice.

D r Mayfield : In terms of the High Court injunction, I only saw it from a distance. That was my understanding of it at the time, but I could be corrected on that.

Senator Canavan: I wasn't the responsible minister, although I represent Mr Littleproud in the Senate, but my understanding in regard to the High Court injunction was that the government's view was that it was not appropriate for a state government formed commission to subpoena or seek to subpoena Commonwealth officials. It's a long-standing principle. That is why the court action was progressed, I believe. Ultimately, the commission dropped its demand for officials to be subpoenaed and therefore we did not proceed with the court action.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, I understand the principles of comity. The question about former public servants is a different matter entirely.

Senator Canavan: I've taken that on notice. I'm not aware of that.

Senator KIM CARR: I don't know what the legal principle would be that anyone could rely upon. You've obviously refuted the allegations that have been made. But the fundamental charge essentially at CSIRO is that the funder of that, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, had pressured CSIRO to alter a report. What do you say to that charge?

Dr Marshall : I find that very hard to believe. I wasn't here at the time this supposedly happened, but in my knowledge and understanding of CSIRO I find that basically impossible to believe that would happen.

Senator Canavan: Can I also put on the record this particular claim that Senator Carr is putting is on page 54 of the royal commission's report. It says:

In 2011, management of the MDBA improperly pressured the CSIRO to alter parts of the CSIRO's 'Multiple Benefits' report.

It's important for context here to say that this was an allegation made in 2011 under the former government, in particular in response to the fallout from the guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that occurred in late 2010. The current government obviously had no administrative authority over the MDBA at that time. Be that as it may, I will repeat what I said: I'm not accepting the conclusions. To me that seems like a very long bow.

Senator KIM CARR: Is there anyone here who has direct experience of that matter?

D r Mayfield : I can talk to the government's processes in place at the time. This comes from the review of the work that was done that we put in place to respond to the royal commission in our submission. We applied a range of different governance processes there. We have our standard CSIRO peer review process, which is documented through ePublish. We have a solid record through the meetings, reviews and adjustments that get made during a publication process. We are very comfortable with that.

We had in place an independent scientific review panel, comprising members from Griffith and Edith Cowan universities, EcoInsights, Barma Consulting and the Centre for International Economics. They helped guide the process, along with a steering group. Then there was an independent panel which looked at the final outputs that were produced. So there were a range of governance processes that allowed for the scientific debate to take place and for the final product to be produced with good governance.

Senator KIM CARR: On this event which was alleged to have occurred in 2011; I must say that I've not heard of it. Has this matter being raised before—the claim that you've cooked a report for the benefit of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority?

Dr Mayfield : Not to my knowledge, no.

Senator KIM CARR: It's the first time this allegation has been raised that you're aware of?

Dr Marshall : It's the first time I've heard of it.

Senator KIM CARR: You must have to look at your records—

Dr Marshall : This is my first awareness of it.

Senator PATRICK: Can I just add something? The minister has directed us to one part of the report. I don't want to verbal you, Senator, but I think that the general secrecy allegation was made on page 16. I'll just read it—and this is current, not something that took place in 2011: 'Almost as dangerously, the habitual behaviour of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and to a lesser, but alarming, extent the CSIRO, is marked by an unfathomable predilection for secrecy.' That is not a 2011 thing—

Senator Canavan: I have read this, Senator Patrick, and I find the language over the top, lacking evidence and an unfair—

Senator PATRICK: That's okay, but I think there's an opportunity for people to say what they want to say—

Senator Canavan: conclusion. It's hard for an agency to respond to such an allegation—

Senator PATRICK: I'm just saying that this is not necessarily a 2011 thing—

Senator Canavan: I accept that, but I'm saying—because I think it's important that you put it on the record and that the government puts it on the record—that we have full confidence in the CSIRO. We reject, wholeheartedly, the conclusions of the royal commissioner which don't seem to be based on evidence and which seem to use particularly intemperate language that is seemingly put there to make an impact rather than get to the bottom of a very serious problem.

Senator PATRICK: But this forum gives an opportunity for CSIRO to state its case.

Senator Canavan: Sure, and I'm happy for Dr Marshall—

Dr Mayfield : Senator just a response to that: when we made our submission on 5 November we also sent a letter at that time to the royal commissioner, where we strongly refuted those statements that were made at that point in time. Then, when we made our submission to the South Australian Premier we again refuted those positions.

Senator PATRICK: Can you table that correspondence, please?

Dr Mayfield : I believe that the correspondence to the royal commissioner is available; it's tabled as part of their own documentation processes, along with our submission. So I'm happy to table those, yes.

Senator PATRICK: And to the South Australian government?

Dr Mayfield : I believe we can. We do probably have to check with the South Australian Premier's office.

Ms Zielke : It's being provided.

Dr Marshall : Just to put this on the record again: CSIRO does not operate under a veil of secrecy. We publish over 3,000 articles and papers a year. My challenge here is that I don't know what to—there is nothing to defend against. There is no real allegation here.

CHAIR: I will just interrupt. Senator Carr, you've had the call now for just over 20 minutes. I will come back to you, if that's all right?

Senator KIM CARR: Sure. I just want to clear this up, because, given what the minister has said, I have a particular interest in the allegation. I'm wasn't aware of the claim—

Senator PATRICK: I'll explore some of that, Senator Carr. On page 11 of the report it says:

Whilst the modelling the MDBA employed for the Guide was partially disclosed to the CSIRO and the Goyder Institute for the purposes of review (for South Australia), none of the modelling used to form the basis of the Basin Plan as enacted has been made available to the scientific community, or the wider public.

Basically, you've received this and no-one seems to be able to produce it. Can you advise me as to whether CSIRO has that modelling information? What follows from that is: can you please provide it to the committee? That's in the spirit of openness you talked about.

Senator Canavan: I'm happy for officials to add to this, but I'm reading the same section of the report as you are, Senator Patrick. Your question will probably be a matter for the MDBA, given that it reads as if it's their modelling and, obviously, not CSIRO's. Obviously, you could ask the—

Senator PATRICK: I understand that, but no-one knows. There's been an order of production in the Senate for it; no-one seems to be able to find it. If CSIRO has it, it's quite a reasonable question for me to ask for them to locate it and provide it.

Senator Canavan: I'm happy for them to answer that aspect; I'm just flagging that, given it doesn't appear to be their modelling, I doubt they'd have the authority to release it. But I'm happy for the officials to make further remarks.

Dr Mayfield : Senator, there was some work done to provide advice to the MDBA. In terms of the level of detail of the modelling work that was reviewed, I couldn't tell you. I would have to take that on notice and, given that it happened so many years ago—

Senator PATRICK: That's not a criticism.

Dr Mayfield : A review of the work was undertaken and advice provided back to the MDBA at the time.

Senator PATRICK: Just to be clear: that's not a criticism; I'm simply seeking to find documents that appear to be unfindable, and we know that CSIRO had possession of them. That's all I'm trying to do there. There was the claim made, and the minister read from it:

In 2011, management of the MDBA improperly pressured the CSIRO to alter parts of the CSIRO's 'Multiple Benefits' report. This rendered parts of that report misleading, as they no longer reflected the views of, at the very least, Dr Matthew Colloff, who was one of the authors.

I'm putting that to you so that you can respond to that. Is anyone aware of, because it was a while ago, the circumstances; and is there any correspondence between CSIRO and the MDBA in relation to a disagreement as to the science?

Dr Mayfield : So, Senator, again, I take you back to the review and governance processes that are in place. They were, I guess, the arrangements that we've used for the multiple benefits project, so there will be documentation of that process through our ePublish system.

Senator PATRICK: I'd be very grateful if you could provide that to the committee, because this will start to untangle some of this.

Dr Mayfield : We can do that.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. Now, there's another area where—and CSIRO gets a good rap in this report about its climate change science—the MDBA are accused of not using proper climate change science in the development of the plan and in determining the 3200-gigalitre return to the river. Do you have any views about whether or not the plan has correct climate change science in it?

Dr Mayfield : In the period back in 2009-10, when the plan was being put together, there was a range of climate science scenarios included in that based on the modelling work from CSIRO and others, so I believe there's a very strong basis around climate change, including the original work. We recognise that during the course of the subsequent years, a range of factors changed—both the rate of climate change as well as other aspects in the science and its level—and, given that the Murray Darling Basin Plan is an adaptive plan, it makes sense that you upgrade that over time, so currently discussions are taking place about how that might happen again over the next period.

Senator PATRICK: So, your view is, being adaptive, that that would be quite normal as better science becomes available for the 3200 gigalitres to be adjusted up or down, according to our greater understanding of climate change or indeed if we recognise that the trajectory is worse than we originally thought.

Dr Mayfield : From our position, upgrading the scientific advice is probably where we sit, and then it's up to the authority to determine how they utilise that advice.

Senator PATRICK: My understanding is that the term over which they consider the data for climate change was quite lengthy, going back basically a century, and was—and excuse my non-scientific description of this—in some sense linear, as opposed to: we have a changing non-linear trajectory for climate change. Are you satisfied at this point in time, with your knowledge of the plan and your knowledge of climate change, that the plan would be reliable, noting that the science that was used in the construction of the plan and what you know now?

Dr Marshall : Senator, I believe it says in the plan, or in the statement by the royal commission, which applauded CSIRO's work in this area—

Senator PATRICK: I agree.

Dr Marshall : and was accurate about the predictions of the flow reduction due to climate change, which we estimate to be 15 per cent.

Senator PATRICK: CSIRO understands climate change better than anyone else in Australia. That's accepted. I am in no way being critical of you. The plan had a particular approach to including climate change in it, and I'm asking you, as the experts, noting this has been very topical, are you satisfied that the plan as it currently sits is using the correct climate change science?

Dr Mayfield : There's always opportunity to keep on improving the science input to get information.

Senator PATRICK: I understand that.

Dr Mayfield : You can appreciate that climate science has a very strong stochastic nature to it, so there is a lot of variability. The climate science that we applied in 2009-2010, we are very comfortable about that. We update our views regularly around climate science, through the State of the climate report that comes out every two years, and the BOM also bring out climate information annually in some of their reports. They're all inputs that can be used.

Senator PATRICK: So you're updating. I'm asking for the latest update. If you looked at the latest update, would that sit comfortably with the construction and the way in which climate change has been included in the current plan?

Dr Mayfield : I think the broader trends are there. We're seeing a drier south-eastern Australia and a wetter northern Australia. They're the broad trends.

Senator PATRICK: So are you saying there needs to be change?

Dr Mayfield : In terms of the science around how much they're changing and the rate of change, I think that's an area for a lot of speculation.

Senator PATRICK: I'm getting a scientific answer. I really want a best scientific answer as to whether or not you are of the professional scientific opinion that what is currently used in the plan is appropriate or not appropriate?

Dr Marshall : It's probably not appropriate for the officer to comment on the plan. That's probably more properly put to the authority.

Senator PATRICK: I'm happy for you to take that on notice.

Dr Marshall : I think that's a question for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. If you're asking us about the science—

Senator PATRICK: I'd like an answer to that question, and I'm happy for you to take it on notice. If you feel there is a public interest immunity in not answering that, you can advance it.

Dr Marshall : If you are asking about our science, I've already said it's amongst the best in the world.

Senator PATRICK: What is the use of the science if you can't use it to advise and guide people in this place?

Senator Canavan: Can I just say here that the setting of the SDLs is a matter governed under the Water Act and has to of course, be developed according—

Senator PATRICK: With the best available science.

Senator Canavan: It has to be governed under the provisions of the law as passed. The CSIRO do not administer the Water Act 2007. They should not be expected to have to answer questions around how any of their research should be used in detail to comply with the provisions of the Water Act, as you would know, I'm sure.

Senator PATRICK: Are you seriously suggesting that CSIRO, funded by the public purse, is not in a position to advise the Senate as to a professional opinion on climate change and whether or not the current Murray-Darling Basin plan is based on proper science or whether it needs to be changed?

Senator Canavan: You have a number of times now changed the question you're asking. In terms of whether or not CSIRO thinks the plan is based on best available science, maybe they can comment on that; but if you are going to the question around exactly the setting of the SDLs, which you also asked about, I don't think that CSIRO has the responsibility or the expertise—they're not lawyers—to work through the details of the laws passed by this parliament. As you would be aware, I'm sure, under the Water Act there are a number of considerations that have to be taken into account, including economic, social and environmental. Obviously CSIRO is asked for their expertise in regards to some of them, but not all.

Senator PATRICK: Can I ask you to take on notice to provide the Senate with some advice so that we, as people who have oversight of government, can be fully informed as we conduct our oversight role? Is that beyond CSIRO?

Dr Marshall : If you're asking us about the science, we can absolutely answer your questions. But I don't think we can comment on a different authority.

Senator PATRICK: You can't take the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the climate change science that was used to develop that plan and compare it against your current knowledge and say it's the same or it's different.

Dr Marshall : The climate science was amongst the world's best, which is why it was so accurate in predicting the reduction in water flow, and that was cited in the commission's report.

Senator PATRICK: I'd ask you to take it on notice.

Dr Marshall : I don't know that we can.

Senator Canavan: Maybe you could clarify exactly what the question is, Senator. The last bit you left there was just 'provide advice'. It was very general. Maybe you could make it a little more specific.

Senator PATRICK: I'm trying to establish what CSIRO's view is on the science that was used to form up the environmentally sustainable levels of take in the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Was that science consistent with what we know now?

Dr Marshall : We can certainly take that on notice. Thank you for clarifying.

Senator PATRICK: I have just a couple more quick questions. Senator Sinodinos asked the question: what involvement have you had in the Menindee analysis of the Menindee fish kills? Have you been taking any water samples in and around the Darling or the lower Darling?

Dr Mayfield : I'm not aware of any particular water sampling work. We have undertaken some internal work just to have our position on the fish kills, which we've put on our CSIRO blog site. We have had discussions with the Littleproud panel as well.

Senator PATRICK: What activities have you been doing in the field, as opposed to back in the offices, in relation to the Menindee fish kills?

Dr Mayfield : I'm not aware of which particular activities in the field, but I am aware that we have looked at our understanding of the issues and put forward our position.

Senator PATRICK: Could you take it on notice to find out, just in case there are some activities you're not aware of? Or are you completely satisfied there are none?

Dr Mayfield : We'd be happy to take it on notice to check.

Senator PATRICK: Thanks, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Carr, do you have more questions?

Senator KIM CARR: What is the status of the Public Research Agency Charter?

Dr Marshall : When you mentioned it last time, I went home and found it and read it. I'd say, in general, most of what's in it is now embodied in other documents. Part of the reason for the change was that it's got a number of references—for example, to the CAC Act—which were superseded by the PGPA Act. But you'll find it in our code of conduct. You'll also find it, of course, in the CSIR Act.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. So it's been transformed into other bodies, has it?

Dr Marshall : Yes. You'd probably find large tracts of text that you recognised in those other documents, as I did when I reviewed it.

Senator KIM CARR: The charter was there to provide those levels of research independence. Do you think they're maintained in those other documents?

Dr Marshall : I believe our science and our scientists are very independent, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I see. What's the measure of your adherence to the charter—even if it's in these other forms?

Dr Marshall : They form part of the overall governance of CSIRO, so I think we adhere quite well to it.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you able to indicate whether there have been any incidents where CSIRO has not fulfilled its obligations under that charter?

Ms Zielke : The CSIRO board, of course, presents its performance statements as part of the financial statements and the annual report each year. There are a number of activities that relate to the statement that are actually covered in those details. I don't believe we have a comprehensive reporting mechanism in relation to that.

Senator KIM CARR: There was a review following some of the controversies in CSIRO a couple of years ago. I thought that review was hardly complimentary to CSIRO.

Ms Zielke : I know I'm new. I expect that you are talking about one that was undertaken in 2015, though, to assist the board in reviewing those processes. A number of practices have been put in place to change those arrangements, restructure some of our reporting arrangements, in relation to that.

Senator KIM CARR: So we could say there have been instances when the CSIRO management and board have not actually fulfilled their obligations?

Ms Zielke : I'd need to take that on notice. I'm not aware of anything at this stage.

Senator KIM CARR: Have a look at that review and see whether or not my assertions are correct.

Ms Zielke : I know the board's audit committee has paid a lot of attention in relation to those actions as well.

Senator KIM CARR: One of the review's findings was that there should be more senior officers based in Canberra. I take it you're based in Canberra now, are you?

Ms Zielke : I am, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: How many others are based in Canberra?

Dr Marshall : The rest of the executive team, if that's your question, spend a lot of time in Canberra, but we are based in other states.

Senator KIM CARR: That's not what I said. How many are based in Canberra?

Dr Marshall : As I said, the other members of the executive team spend a lot of time in Canberra, but they live in other states.

Senator KIM CARR: That's not what the review asked you to do. It said 'based in Canberra'. How many are based in Canberra?

Dr Marshall : I've answered your question three times now.

Senator KIM CARR: You have. You've said you spent time in Canberra, which is not what the review recommended.

Dr Marshall : I understand.

Senator KIM CARR: It's didn't say 'attend' meetings in Canberra but 'based' in Canberra.

Dr Marshall : I understand.

Senator KIM CARR: So you haven't fulfilled that review finding, have you?

Dr Marshall : We have the chief operating officer here in Canberra.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. As her predecessor was.

Dr Marshall : We have numerous members of CLT here in Canberra.

Senator KIM CARR: That was the point of the review.

Dr Marshall : And we created the chief operating officer position partly in response to that review.

Senator KIM CARR: Maybe I should pull out that review and we'll go through it in detail? I'll put you on notice for next time. We'll see how we go. Senator Patrick, asked about your involvement in the studies for the Murray Darling on the fish question. There was a study undertaken by the academy. CSIRO had a person on that review, is that right?

Dr Mayfield : There was no CSIRO officers on that review.

Senator KIM CARR: What was Dr Penny Whetton's capacity.

Dr Mayfield : I'm not aware of her involvement in that review.

Senator KIM CARR: You are not aware?

Dr Mayfield : No.

Senator KIM CARR: Have I got it wrong? Are you saying she wasn't involved?

Dr Mayfield : No. What I'm saying is that I'm not aware that she was involved.

Senator KIM CARR: Perhaps you should have a look at the Australian Academy of Science's website and see whether or not I've got it wrong. That's not my issue though. My issue goes to the question as to whether or not anyone from CSIRO was reprimanded for providing information to the Academy of Science's review.

Dr Mayfield : No, I'm not aware of anyone being reprimanded.

Senator KIM CARR: You're not aware?

Dr Mayfield : I don't believe anyone has been.

Senator KIM CARR: Dr Marshall, will you take that on notice?

Dr Marshall : Certainly. Are you suggesting that, in fact, someone from CSIRO did?

Senator KIM CARR: Someone was obviously on the review. I can draw your attention to the Academy of Science's statement now. You're saying to me, 'In what capacity?' Presumably, you're not acknowledging their official engagement. I would like to know though—you'll take it on notice—has there been any reprimand issued to any CSIRO personnel for participating or providing information to the Academy of Science's review into the Murray Darling, which recently reported to the Leader of the Opposition?

Dr Marshall : A couple of days ago, in fact.

Senator KIM CARR: That's right. You know the one.

Dr Marshall : Very recent.

Senator KIM CARR: Very recent, so you should have no trouble with your records.

Dr Marshall : We have no trouble with the records anyway. It might take us more than two days to review the document. It's 700 pages, I believe.

Senator KIM CARR: No. It's the Academy of Science's review, which was commissioned by Mr Shorten and supplied to Mr Shorten. It was published last week.

Dr Marshall : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: I'm asking you, on notice, were any officers of the CSIRO reprimanded for participating in that review?

Dr Mayfield : We can take that on notice. Can I also say that our work around the Murray Darling Basin is all publicly available on our website.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. That's why it would be such a silly thing to do, wouldn't it?

Dr Mayfield : Yes. We're quite comfortable that that information being used is on the public record.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes.

Senator PATRICK: You're quite extensively quoted on the record as well.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes. And so he should be. Dr Whetton is a world expert—a world-acknowledged expert—in this field. I would have thought she was one of the stars of CSIRO. I'm surprised you're not aware that—

Senator PATRICK: What was her name?

Dr Marshall : We have a constellation of stars in science.

Senator KIM CARR: Of course, that's true. It's a galaxy!

Dr Marshall : Yes, indeed.

Senator PATRICK: What was the name?

Senator KIM CARR: Dr Penny Whetton. I'll talk to you in a minute—

Senator PATRICK: She's definitely listed as one of the people who was involved in the report.

Senator KIM CARR: That's right. She's listed. It's not a secret.

CHAIR: Senators, we're here to question the agency.

Senator KIM CARR: How many staff are currently working under CSIRO's Climate Science Centre?

Dr Mayfield : As of 22 January of this year, the Climate Science Centre had 146 staff working there.

Senator KIM CARR: And they're all in Hobart?

Dr Mayfield : No, they're across three different sites. We have some here in Canberra at our Black Mountain site, in Hobart and also at Aspendale in Victoria.

Senator KIM CARR: What does the breakdown look like?

Dr Marshall : I don't believe I have that information with me today.

Senator KIM CARR: All right. Perhaps you could provide that for me at a later date, on notice.

Dr Marshall : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What are the key responsibilities of the centre?

Dr Marshall : The centre is, I guess, our focal point for undertaking climate science and undertaking climate observations—in particular the Argo work, analysing ice cores and interacting with other parts of the CSIRO. And there is the innovation system around how we do adaptation, as well.

Senator KIM CARR: How would you describe the coordination across government? How is that organised?

Dr Marshall : Could you clarify that for me? It's a fairly open-ended—

Senator KIM CARR: Do you have a coordinating role within other agencies? Do you—

Dr Marshall : We participate in a range of different bodies: the NESP body, through risk and resilience committees. We have engagement with a whole range of other aspects.

Senator KIM CARR: At the moment, who is responsible for coordinating climate science within the Commonwealth?

Senator Canavan: I'm not sure coordinating would be the word I'd use, but the Minister for the Environment is responsible for the Commonwealth government's climate policy.

Senator KIM CARR: So the environment department, is it?

Senator Canavan: Well, the Minister for the Environment is. I'm not familiar myself with all the divisions of responsibilities. I would expect it would be the environment department, but certainly the Minister for the Environment is the responsible minister.

Senator KIM CARR: Minister, that's a fairly vague answer. Would it be possible to take that on notice? Who is the lead agency for climate science in the Commonwealth of Australia at the moment?

Senator Canavan: I'm happy to take it on notice. I don't think it's a question, though, that's best directed to this committee. Given you're asking about environmental policy, it would probably best to ask that in the Senate environment committee.

Senator KIM CARR: It's a question that CSIRO might want to answer.

Dr Marshall : From our perspective, we have a very strong engagement through the Department of the Environment and Energy.

Senator KIM CARR: Yes, you do. But I want to know who the lead agency is. Would the Commonwealth government regard you as the lead agency for this?

Dr Marshall : Who the government regards as the lead agency would be a question for the government—

Senator KIM CARR: That's why I asked the minister.

Dr Marshall : but we are the national science agency.

Senator KIM CARR: Perhaps I could add as a question on notice: could you give me a breakdown for CSIRO, by calendar year, of the number of staff who have worked at the Climate Science Centre since its formation? Are you able to do that?

Dr Marshall : We could provide information on notice, yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Have you got that now, or do you want to take it on notice?

Dr Marshall : I probably can't do it year by year now, so I think to make it consistent it's probably best to take it on notice.

Senator KIM CARR: Fair enough. What's the level of funding, from the appropriation and from external revenue, for the Climate Science Centre? Can you provide that?

Dr Marshall : For this particular financial year, the Climate Science Centre has a budget of $25.5 million.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that appropriation monies?

Dr Marshall : No, that's a combination of appropriation and external.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you give me a breakdown please of appropriation and external revenue.

Dr Marshall : Of that $25.5 million, $16 million would be coming from external sources and the balance would come from appropriation.

Senator KIM CARR: How does that compare with the situation in 2013?

Dr Mayfield : I'm not sure I have a comparison number for you at this point in time.

Senator KIM CARR: What are the external sources for the $16 million?

Dr Mayfield : There are a range of sources, including various programs being run through the Department of the Environment and Energy and the work we do with the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology and other state bodies.

Senator KIM CARR: Can you give me an itemised breakdown?

Dr Mayfield : Yes.

Dr Marshall : To be fair, it's also a collaboration between the University of Tasmania and the University of New South Wales.

Senator KIM CARR: That'll show up in the breakdown, won't it?

Dr Marshall : I just wanted to acknowledge the support of our partners.

Senator KIM CARR: It's all public money. The $16 million is all public money for all of the government agencies, isn't it?

Dr Mayfield : No, as I said before, some of that comes from Qingdao national marine laboratory.

Senator KIM CARR: How much?

Dr Mayfield : I believe $5 million per annum comes that way.

Senator KIM CARR: If you could give me a table on that, that would be great. And the same for 2013, if you could, please. Is that the only funding that you'd say could be identified as climate science funding in CSIRO at the moment?

Dr Mayfield : If you look at the broader adaptation and mitigation context, there is a lot more work being done.

Senator KIM CARR: And what is that?

Dr Mayfield : I probably couldn't give you the number of—

Senator KIM CARR: Could you give it to me on notice and how that compares with the situation in 2013? Is that all right?

Dr Mayfield : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Could you also provide a breakdown of the staff working in CSIRO in terms of the same levels—that is, cite the climate change scientists now and in 2013 across the organisation? Thank you. I've got a report here from the Australian Academy of Science entitled Australian climate science capability review, which was produced in 2017. It claims a climate science capability gap in a number of areas, including CSIRO. Are you familiar with that review?

Dr Mayfield : Yes, we are familiar with that review.

Senator KIM CARR: How do you respond to that suggestion?

Dr Mayfield : I think we may have discussed this at the time.

Senator KIM CARR: Just remind me.

Dr Mayfield : We believe that, with the investment we're making in the Climate Science Centre, we're doing appropriate levels of work around climate science. If you add our adaptation work, we think there's a strong body of science.

Senator KIM CARR: Okay. It said you were short 27 full-time equivalent people. How many people have you put on since 2017?

Dr Mayfield : I'll grab some numbers for 2017. They don't go back to 2013.

Senator KIM CARR: In 2017 they identified a shortage of 27, didn't they?

Dr Marshall : In that report, are you sure it was 27 people in CSIRO or was it 27 people in climate science?

Senator KIM CARR: It was 27 people across climate observation, climate understanding, climate modelling and climate service, with CSIRO identified as the main one. I just want to know how many people you have put on.

Dr Mayfield : I have some information here. We had about 120 scientists in September 2016 working in the Climate Science Centre, and, as I said earlier, we currently have 146, so it's come up 26.

Senator KIM CARR: Overall, it said there was a gap of 77 full-time equivalent over four years, and clearly CSIRO is part of that. Can you tell me what you've done to make up that gap.

Dr Mayfield : Obviously, we've grown the Climate Science Centre to its current levels. We've added 26 in that time. In terms of the broader gap, I can't comment to that. But we are comfortable with the level of scientific investment that we're doing in the space at this point in time.

Senator KIM CARR: Of course you are, yes. Do you have plans to hire new staff in climate science across the forward estimates?

Dr Mayfield : We're probably reaching the point where we'll level off in terms of the size of the Climate Science Centre, unless of course there are changes—

Senator KIM CARR: So the answer is no.

Dr Marshall : It's getting harder and harder with the changes in technology and science—AI is a big part of climate science now; digital is a big part of climate science; censors are a big part of climate science. Overall, CSIRO has grown in the last four years. Many of our breakthroughs are happening through collaboration between what were previously separate areas of science, so we're seeing a convergence.

Senator KIM CARR: Fair enough. So you're suggesting we can bake this up with machines?

Dr Marshall : Not at all, Senator. I'm suggesting that artificial intelligence, when partnered with humans, can give us an amazing lever to crack what were previously insoluble problems.

Senator KIM CARR: The review suggests that our problem is in modelling—the resources associated with modelling climate change.

Dr Marshall : Digital and artificial intelligence would fit right into modelling.

Senator KIM CARR: That's exactly your point, and I'm saying: that's your assertion, is it—that you can fix this through a digital response?

Dr Marshall : I'm not sure what we're trying to fix here. I think you're referring to a report that looked at the whole of Australia's climate science and trying to apply it to CSIRO. The officers answered that—

Senator KIM CARR: I want to know how we're going in terms of this particular capability. This is an area which, through your time, Dr Marshall, has been a major area of controversy.

Dr Marshall : I don't think there's much controversy about the need to shift to mitigation and adaptation. There was even a recent article about the need to shift more to mitigation and adaptation, actually applauding our shift in 2016.

Senator KIM CARR: I just want to be clear: is it your view, given the circumstances we've had since the 2015 period and since this review has been published, that we don't need to spend more money on climate science within CSIRO?

Dr Marshall : In CSIRO we're focused on solving Australia's greatest challenges. Climate change is one of Australia's greatest challenges. But, for our context, we care so much about that because it affects the productivity of our land and the health and safety of our people. We're focused on figuring out how we can anticipate events like droughts and floods to get better warning on them. Technologies like artificial intelligence are an incredible aid to cracking those incredibly complex problems. So we balance our resources to deliver the greatest impact we believe we can to the nation.

CHAIR: I have a couple of questions for you. You did actually anticipate one of my questions, Dr Marshall, in your opening statement. I was going to ask you for an update on the northern Australian water resources, which I asked you about at the last estimates. I'd like to touch on that a little bit more again. You mentioned the national drought map. I suppose this follows on quite neatly from Senator Carr's questions. Could you talk us through the national drought map and what it's doing now to assist with the extraordinary troubles that we're having in northern Australia—not with drought this time around, quite clearly, but with too much water.

Dr Marshall : It was launched last month. We've been working on it for quite a while of course. We think of it—as you can think of it, if you like—as Google 3D maps or Google Earth but for drought. It's available online to any member of the public. You're able to zoom in on pretty much any part of Australia, and it aggregates all of the rich history of data that we've gathered over many years and the space data from satellites to give you a data visualisation of the impact of drought. In fact, you can also see the impact of floods.

CHAIR: What does a data visualisation provide other than something that's interesting?

Dr Marshall : You could see the levels of water; if you wanted to you could see the levels of salinity in the soil. We have very comprehensive datasets. They've never really been unified and pulled together in this way before.

CHAIR: Who would be using this information and what would they be using it for?

Dr Marshall : Certainly government, to understand more about what's going on in real time, but also the public. As came up earlier in the hearing, part of the reason we react so badly to the suggestion that CSIRO keeps things secret is that we publish pretty much everything we do. That transparency to the public, enabling the public to see the impact of drought and floods, is really important to us.

CHAIR: I just have one more question. It's not really personal. I have a friend who apparently snores. It wouldn't be me. If it were me it would be more like the sound of angels sighing! But I did see, on Channel 9 on the Today show or something like, that CSIRO had been involved with the development of a sleep apnoea tool. I wanted to ask you (a) what it is that you've done and (b) what's the nature of the arrangements with the private sector organisations that are manufacturing and marketing this sleep apnoea tool? How do you start them? What is it that you do for them? Who finds who? How does it work?

Dr Marshall : One of the things Senator Sinodinos mentioned, Strategy 2020—the way we do those arrangements has changed a little bit, and it's part of the reason we've been able to increase our investment in pure science. We now take equity in some start-ups. We spin some start-ups out with equity—

CHAIR: This is the CSIRO fund that Senator Sinodinos was talking about?

Dr Marshall : The fund is part of that, but also the different parts of CSIRO's business go into equity arrangements with their customers. In the case of the company you mentioned, Oventus, it's been very successful. In a sense, we benefit when the company is successful, beyond simply the money that they might pay us to do work for them. In the Oventus case, for many years—I was an entrepreneur before coming to CSIRO—many people have come up with mouthguards and ways to deal with this problem, but they've never been able to make it through the medical approval process, because it's very hard to ensure that something is safe when it's in your mouth while you're asleep. The breakthrough that CSIRO made for Oventus was figuring out how to 3D print the device that they came up with and also some of the materials that protect your gums and your lips when it's in your mouth. That was the breakthrough. We did the initial manufacturing for them and taught them how to do it, and now they're employing people in Australia to produce those. They recently broke into the US market. So it's a great example of deep Australian science combining with an SME to make them grow and help them break into a global market.

CHAIR: So CSIRO, after being part of the development process, has equity in Oventus? Is that how that works?

Dr Marshall : I believe we don't anymore, but we do with many companies. We have an ongoing relationship with those companies, and that's part of what has fed the growth in our ability to fund blue-sky science.

CHAIR: So, just for the sake of my friend who might snore a little bit, this product is now commercially available?

Dr Marshall : It is, and if you like we can put you in touch with the company.

CHAIR: I wouldn't need it, but I might put my friend in touch! Thank you very much, Dr Marshall; I appreciate that. As there are no further questions for CSIRO, we might let them go. Thank you very much for appearing at estimates tonight.

Dr Marshall : Thank you, Senator.